PARIS Feb 23 Hundreds of high-school students
protested in Paris over police use of force on Thursday,
blocking the entrances to a dozen schools before heading to a
banned street rally where riot police turned out in large
The protest was the latest of several, many in northern
suburbs of Paris, since a 22-year-old black man was allegedly
raped with a police baton during a Feb. 2 arrest in an area
north of the capital where large numbers of immigrants live.
It comes two months before a presidential election where
far-right leader Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigrant
National Front party, is tipped to win the first round but lose
the runoff that takes place on May 7.
The Paris school authority said more than 10 schools were
affected by youths who piled up rubbish bins and other objects
at the entrance gates; but it had had no reports of violence at
Social media networks, however, showed signs of skirmishes
on the fringes of what appeared to be a largely peaceful rally
in the Place de la Nation square in the east of the capital,
where riot police in protective gear advanced on groups of
mostly-hooded youths in sidestreet confrontations.
A helicopter flew overhead.
The Paris police department had warned people to stay away
from a protest, saying it was not authorised and that there was
a risk of violent groups causing trouble, as had happened over
the last three weeks.
Four police officers have been suspended pending an inquiry
into the Feb. 2 incident. One has been placed under formal
investigation for suspected rape and three others for
unnecessary use of force.
So far the protests have not snowballed to the extent of the
unrest that 12 years ago drew global attention to the stark
contrast between wealthy Paris and the suburbs that surround it.
The victim of the arrest that sparked the latest protests
had a visit from President Francois Hollande earlier this month
after being hospitalised for treatment of wounds to his anus and
head and has called for calm. His family have said they have
faith in the justice system.
(Writing by Brian Love; additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste